Australian News

More than 300 people joined a forest camp in the Pilliga State Forest in north-west New South Wales during the weekend of November 11–12 to protest against coal seam gas (CSG) mining.

The protest culminated in a convoy of about 100 cars filled with locals, farmers and environmental activists making their way into the forest to create a human sign on the sand beds of the river spelling out “NO CSG”.

Workers at the PPG paint manufacturing plant at Villawood have been locked out for more than three months in a bitter dispute over pay and conditions.

The multinational company, which makes Taubmans, Bristol and White Knight paints, locked out 57 workers on August 10 after they refused to cancel legal industrial action during negotiations for a new enterprise agreement.

It is difficult to predict the result of the Queensland election on November 25.

Polls continue to indicate a close result between the major parties with a likelihood that preferences will determine the outcome in many seats. Most likely, whichever party forms government will need the support of independents or minor parties.

A crowd of unionists, estimated by organisers at 15,000, gathered at Belmore Park and marched through city streets to a rally in Cook and Phillip Park on November16, demanding "Stop the War on Workers".

Members of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) walked off building sites for the rally, while waterside workers belonging to the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) closed down the Port of Botany for the day.

Investment bank Goldman Sachs is set to reap $16.5 million in NSW taxpayers' funds for a mere 11 months work as financial advisor to the state government on privatisation of the controversial $16.8 billion WestConnex tollway. The money will be paid for work between August this year and next July, in flogging off 51% of the Sydney Motor Corporation (SMC) which is building WestConnex.

The corporate vampires are circling as the sell-off process advances, with Transurban the favorite to buy WestConnex. Transurban already owns most of the toll roads in Sydney.

This month there have been four big wins for the union movement. Seventy jobs were saved at Murray Goulburn after a six month campaign; Dave, the union delegate sacked for leading a protest in his undies, has been reinstated; electricians at Crown Casino all got their jobs back on union conditions; and supermarket giant Coles has agreed to fast-track a vote on a new workplace agreement that will pay much higher penalty rates.

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More than 100 people attended a rally in defence of public housing at the Walker Street Estate in Northcote on November 11.

The Victorian Labor government has announced a "public housing renewal program" that will involve the demolition of nine public housing estates across Melbourne. The land will be sold to developers who are likely to build high rise towers in place of the current low rise buildings.

The emergency on Manus Island has sparked a renewal in the refugee rights movement, with large numbers of new activists coming to their first demonstrations. It has also inspired a range of creative direct actions, including acts of civil disobedience, which have complemented the large protests in the major cities and significant protest actions across regional towns and centres.

In an astounding display of bureaucratic arrogance, the chief of the company building the controversial $17 billion WestConnex tollway complex described the reintroduction of tolls on the widened M4 motorway as "exciting", while dismissing concerns about the health impacts of exhaust ventilation stacks planned for the route of the WestConnex tunnels.

The future of Adani’s proposed Carmichael mine in the Galilee Basin has become intertwined with the Queensland state elections called for November 25, with the mega coalmine confronting serious problems in obtaining finance for the project.

Over the past year, Adani has been increasingly unable to secure the $5 billion it needs from private sources, as various financial institutions have begun shifting investments away from coal and towards renewables.

Under pressure from grassroots campaigns, Australia’s Big Four banks have ruled out financing the project.

A seminar to discuss the challenges, achievements and lessons of the Kurdish-led feminist revolution in northern Syria, in Victoria University on November 4, attracted more than 80 people. It was the second seminar to be organised this year by solidarity activists and the Victorian Kurdish community in Melbourne.

The Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) has reported a huge disparity in the superannuation that women retire on compared with men.

Last year, the mean superannuation balance for women across all age groups – from workers just starting out to retirees – was $68,000, compared with $112,000 for men.

Women who retired in 2016 had an average super balance of $157,000, while men had an average balance of $271,000.

Staff at Victoria University (VU) are bearing the brunt of the latest attack in what is an industry-wide push by university managements to wind back conditions in the sector.

Hundreds of refugee activists gave a voice to the men in the abandoned Manus Island detention centre at a rally in Perth on November 5 organised by the Refugee Rights Action Network WA.

The 600 men remaining on Manus Island have been deprived food, water and medical aid since the centre’s closure on October 30.

They read out messages from six of the men using a ‘human microphone’, when one person reads a sentence and the crowd repeats it. Below are the messages they read out.

Members of the family of David Dungay, who was killed by prison officers in Long Bay jail almost two years ago, gathered outside the Coroners Court on November 8 to demand justice and that action be taken against those officers involved in his death.

Speaking to the media, David's mother Leetona said: "After two years, this process has taken too long. We are going to fight this to the end. My son has been cruelly taken away from us, and I am demanding that justice is finally done for him."

The results of the 2017 City of Greater Geelong Council elections have been declared, with Greens candidate Sarah Mansfield being elected in Brownbill Ward.

Mansfield won more than 17% of the primary vote. Her election was aided by a strong preference flow from residents who voted for Socialist Alliance (SA) candidates Sue Bull and Sarah Hathway.

If there is one thing I have learnt from being involved in this campaign over the past decade, it is that seeing people protesting, known that someone cares about you and is watching, has always made a difference to people suffering in detention.

Angered by the latest round of cuts, staff at Victoria University (VU) held a protest outside a university council meeting on November 2.

National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) national president Jeannie Rea told protesters she had worked at VU for 20 years. She said that more than 100 people have lost their jobs at VU this year, with another round of redundancies still to come.

The first LGBTQI rights march in Parramatta since 1983 was held on October 29.

It attracted more than 200 people to Centennial Square outside the Parramatta Town Hall before marching to the annual Parramatta Pride Picnic on the River Foreshore.

In some sort of sick joke, residents of the inner west suburbs of St Peters and Haberfield have been sent earplugs by WestConnex after complaints to it about the incessant and loud noise caused by the construction of this controversial $17 billion tollway.

After a concerted campaign by staff, trade unions and the community, the NSW government announced on October 27 that Shellharbour Hospital in the Illawarra will remain in public hands.

The campaign forced the government to cancel its proposed public-private partnership (PPP) plan and instead proceed with a $251 million redevelopment of the hospital on its current site.

Victoria is set to trial a safe injecting room, where users will be able to inject their drug of choice in a medically supervised safe space. The trial will run for at least two years, followed by a review.

It will be the first injecting room in Victoria and the second in Australia, after an injecting room was established in Kings Cross, Sydney, in 2001.

Victoria became the first state to have a Renewable Energy Target (RET) written into law on October 20. The Victorian RET has been set at 25% renewable energy by 2020, and 40% by 2025.

A concerted campaign to stop Gloucester Resources Limited’s open-cut coalmine on agricultural land in Gloucester has been rewarded. The NSW Department of Planning and the Environment recommended on October 23 that GRL’s Rocky Hill mine not be given approval. 

Feminist NGO Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia (RDVSA) is urgently seeking funds to keep the phones switched on at the NSW Rape Crisis Centre (RCC).

The NSW RCC is the last remaining public 24 hour, 7 days a week sexual assault counselling service in the state.

The Geelong Women Unionists Network, with the support of Geelong Trades Hall Council (GTHC), is holding a conference, Working Women Get Organised, on November 11 which is open to everyone.

“This place is like a war zone,” wrote Behrouz Boochani, an Iranian journalist locked up in the Manus Island detention centre, as he exhaustedly began to describe the situation on November 2 – day 2 of the “Manus Island siege”.

Since October 31, 600 desperate men, suffering in more ways than most people can comprehend after more than four years of torture in detention, have barricaded themselves in the centre.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s enthusiastic embrace of Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is reprehensible, the Tamil Refugee Council said on November 2.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) launched its national boycott campaign against Streets ice cream products on October 29, urging people to “stand up for fairness and commit to a Streets-Free Summer”.

AMWU NSW secretary Steve Murphy said the workers had no choice but to call for a boycott after Streets “hit the nuclear option”.

A potential new battlefield has opened up in the fight against Adani’s proposed mega coalmine for the Galilee Basin in Queensland. To date, the campaign against the coalmine has successfully pressured several companies – including Australia’s Big Four banks – to rule out financing the project.

However, as the board of directors of procurement contractor Downer EDI Mining – which is in the box seat to construct the Adani mine infrastructure – prepared to face shareholders at its November 2 Annual General Meeting, news broke that the company and Adani were in negotiations with Chinese state-owned enterprise China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC) over its possible involvement in financing the project.

From the time of Adani’s initial application for a mining license for the Carmichael Mine project in October 2010, local farmers and graziers have had concerns about the project’s impact on ground water and the Great Artesian Basin.

This was translated into legal challenges to the Carmichael, Kevin’s Corner and Alpha mines in the Galilee Basin. The controversial Adani project, while still financially dubious, has one legal barrier to overcome. The High Court is set to bring down a decision in March on the appeal by the Traditional Owners, the Wangan and Jagalingou people.

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has called on federal MPs and senators to reject new legislation tabled by federal Communications Minister Mitch Fifield, which is aimed at further undermining the independence and integrity of the national broadcasters ABC and SBS.

Progressive students have staged a remarkable come-from-behind victory in Sydney University’s Student Representative Council (SRC) elections, with Imogen Grant elected SRC president.

Grant headed Switch, a ticket of Greens, socialists and independents. She edged out Liberal candidate Brendan Ma, following a string of controversial decisions made during the course of the campaign.

Grant’s victory came on the back of another defeat of the federal coalition government’s attempt to further impoverish students with its changes to higher education.

Refugee advocates occupied Melbourne’s Spring St on October 25 in solidarity with the asylum seekers of Manus Island, who have been abandoned by the Australian government.

The action was organised by Whistleblowers, Activists and Citizens Alliance (WACA), Disrupt 2017 and Refugee Action Collective (Victoria).

In November 2015, the NSW government sold the old, coal-fired Vales Point Power Station for $1 million, about the price of an average Sydney home.

Then-NSW treasurer Gladys Berejiklian said it would save the taxpayer from "ongoing losses" and "significant liabilities, such as costs associated with decommissioning, estimated to be in the tens of millions".

Fast forward two years.

Winners of the 2017 Whitsundays Tourism awards, held last month at Hamilton Island, have rejected the prize and threatened to quit the organisation because it was sponsored by the mining giant Adani.

Bindjareb Traditional Owners have begun a campaign to rename the Peel region in Western Australia, named after Thomas Peel, a settler who was instrumental in the Pinjarra massacre in which dozens of Aboriginal people, including children, were killed on October 28, 1834.

More than 200 people attended the first rally organised by the Public Housing Defence Network in Debney Park, Flemington on October 15.

The network was established to fight the Daniel Andrews Labor government’s plan to privatise 11 public housing estates across Melbourne. The government wants to sell the current walk-up blocks of flats to private developers who will replace them with some social housing and high rise private developments.

Communities in south-west Western Australia are angry the state government has granted Bunbury Energy a new gas exploration permit, covering the shires of Capel, Dardanup and Donnybrook-Balingup and parts of Bunbury and Busselton.

Co-convenor of the Gasfield Free South West Alliance, Boyanup landholder Kathy Thomson said the permit was a kick in the guts to the people of the south west.

“The government promised us a fracking ban before to the state election. We understood the promise meant we would be protected from encroachment by the invasive onshore gas industry.

Hundreds of people gathered for the Don't Mess With the West rally outside the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre in Penrith on October 20, before marching to the electoral office of local member and Minister for Western Sydney Stuart Ayres, chanting "community health, not incinerator wealth" and "don't mess with the West”.

They were protesting against the controversial WestConnex road project and associated tolls on the M4 Motorway and elsewhere; the highly polluting waste disposal incinerator proposed for Eastern Creek; and the planned new airport at Badgerys Creek.

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